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Chennai’s Express Avenue mall to pay Rs 10 lakh to family of dead manual scavenging worker

The Express Avenue Mall in Chennai’s Royapettah is going to pay the family of 25-year-old Arunkumar, who died in a septic tank at the basement of the establishment, a compensation of Rs 10 lakh. In addition to this, the mall’s General Manager (Plumbing), Murugesan, has been summoned by the police on Monday for enquiry

The mall has already paid Rs 1 lakh and will pay the rest on Thursday. “They have given Rs 1 lakh already. They are yet to pay Rs 9 lakh. They have said they will complete the transaction today,” Viki, a relative of the deceased, tells TNM.

On Tuesday morning, a contractor named Dhandapani had taken five men — Arunkumar, Ranjithkumar, Yuvaraj, Ajithkumar and Sreenath — all from Ice House to Express Avenue Mall to clean two water tanks and the septic tank. Of the five, Ranjithkumar first entered the septic tank and was cleaning it when he fainted inside due to the toxic gases. On seeing this, 25-year-old Arunkumar, Ranjithkumar’s brother, immediately jumped in to rescue him.

Arunkumar managed to get in and push his brother out. But by then, he was affected by the fumes, and subsequently died. His body was taken to the Royapettah Government Hospital for an autopsy.

“Dhandapani has been remanded to judicial custody as of now,” says an investigating official in the case. “We will be conducting enquiry with the mall manager on Monday. Once that is complete, we will include more names in the FIR.”

The police have booked Dhandapani and unnamed mall officials under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013; Atrocities against SC/ST Act; and section 304 (1) (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

“Since the SC/ST Act has been invoked, the family will get an additional amount of Rs 8 lakh as compensation. The mall has handed over the Rs 10 lakh to the family already. Since the SC/ST Act is recorded, the burden of proof now lies of the contractor and mall. They have to prove that they are innocent in court. They are considered guilty till then,” the investigating official adds.

When TNM spoke to Arunkumar’s brother Ranjithkumar on Tuesday, he alleged that the contractor had made them pose for a photograph with the safety gear on before telling them to take it off and enter the septic tank. The picture was allegedly just to show mall authorities. But when Ranjithkumar entered the tank, the mall authorities opened a valve to allow sewer water in, he alleges, causing him to collapse.

“Irrespective of whether they had safety gear or not, making humans enter a septic tank is illegal,” says the investigating official. “Action will be taken against everyone involved.”

Also read:  ‘Not given masks or boots’: Brother of manual scavenging worker who died in Chennai mall

Source: The News Minute